School Forum: Turning Classrooms into Learning Environments

Nearly two hundred teachers and head teachers defied the cold and snow on December 1st, to gather in the Grand Pavilion of the InterContinental Hotel in Berlin and hear about rich learning environments.


The forum opened with a presentation by Duane Sider, learning director of Rosetta Stone. The title was ‘Digital Natives: How they Learn and How we Teach’. According to Duane, the technology is shaping the pedagogy. Learners today are in control of an experiential and experimental learning process, and don’t learn just in case the information is required, but just in time; they search, find, use and store information when it is needed. Classrooms should become creative, powerful and effective learning environments.


Russell Stannard, principal lecturer at Warwick University in England and instigator of, then took the stage. He finds that often teachers are willing to use new technologies, but do not know where to start. Young learners are generally more comfortable with webtools and other technologies than most experienced teachers. Russell’s solution is screen capture, offering teachers a range of courses, tips and tricks on a variety of technologies, effectively showing how technology can enrich the classroom.


Sugata Mitra

Highly anticipated was the presentation of Sugata Mitra, the Indian professor of ‘Hole in the Wall’ fame. After a long snow delay at Newcastle upon Tyne airport, the inspirational Professor managed to fly in to tell the School Forum participants just how well children can learn independently, when in groups and when motivated. Sugata’s most recent project involves experiments with what he calls the Granny Cloud; two hundred British grandmothers who have for the last two years offered children instructional support over the Skype communication system. According to the professor, a ‘motivational granny’ is all children need to learn effectively within a Self Organised Learning Environment (SOLE).


After the coffee break, a wide range of interactive demonstrations showed useful and exciting tools, projects and resources for teaching. A small group of primary school children effortlessly used an interactive whiteboard to demonstrate their e-twinning platform. Other demonstrations showed virtual experiments and online games, learning management systems, personal learning networks, interactive language software and educational platforms.


The teachers programmed robots, and tried out different learning tools, both open source and proprietary.


The wrap-up session at the end of the forum, moderated by Nikitas Kastis and Walter Kugemann (Menon Network, Belgium), led to a lively discussion between the presenters and the remaining audience. The School Forum once more highlighted the need for rich learning environments in which the teachers motivate and facilitate, and the learners collaborate and share.

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